30 MPH Gusts? No problem.
For disc golfers without much experience in the wind, it can feel like an entirely new game. Your drives seem to have a mind of their own and 10 foot putts become testers. The good news is that playing in the wind is a skill that can be learned. Once you understand how the wind affects your disc, a gusty day will feel like a welcome change-of-pace instead of a perplexing obstacle. Eventually you can learn to harness the wind to pull off lines impossible in still conditions, including massive distance shots.
When disc golfing in heavy winds, you need to adjust your expectations and play more conservatively. Expect to shoot at least a few strokes worse on a windy day than a calm one. Don’t let yourself get discouraged by bogies; everyone on the course is experiencing the same conditions and getting the same tough breaks.
Lay up putts from much closer than you would on a still day. Most Circle 2 putts and edge-of-circle putts aren’t worth running in bad conditions. If you miss and leave yourself a 15-foot comebacker into a ripping headwind, it is far from guaranteed that you will make it. There is a premium on drop-ins on windy days. Lay up to the pole and move onto the next hole.
Play some holes for par or even for bogie. Especially in a tournament where you are competing against the field, bogie doesn’t necessarily lose strokes to your competitors. If you can minimize stress on a hole where huge numbers are possible, play safe, take your bogie, and move on.
So You Had a Spit Out. Get Over It!
Don’t get frustrated at what feels like a bad break. Spit outs, roll aways, and crazy skips are much more likely in heavy winds. The person who gets over their spit out and moves on with a good attitude will only lose one stroke. The person who dwells on it is likely to lose more than one stroke. They say most fun wins; especially on a windy day, the player who keeps the most positive mindset, despite the bad breaks, has a real advantage over the competition.
Reading the Wind
Reading the wind can be tricky. What you feel on the tee may be very different from what’s actually going on down the fairway. Look for wind indicators such as a flag on the top of the basket, leaves on the trees, ripples in the water, waves in the grass, etc. to make a determination about what the wind is doing down the fairway. Choose your line and disc based on all available information. Sometimes the wind is blowing one direction on the tee and a different direction at the basket. Visualize your shot and try to imagine how the disc will be affected by the wind at each part of its flight. If the wind is swirly or hard-to-predict, play safe, trust a stable disc, and keep it low and flat.
When in Doubt, Throw Low and Flat
If you want to minimize the effect the wind has on your disc, throw low and flat. Generally, the wind is blowing less strong closer to the ground. Keeping the disc underneath the wind helps prevent gusts in the fairway that you can’t feel on the tee pad from blowing your disc in an unexpected direction. Releasing the disc flat makes it more aerodynamic and gives the wind less surface area to push around. Especially if you are unsure of the wind direction, low and flat is the way to go.
Precision on Upshots
Landing your upshots close in the wind will save you a lot of stress on the putting green. Tailwind upshots carry farther and get pushed straighter than the same throw in calm conditions. Headwind shots require more power and a more overstable disc.
In crosswinds, play the shot that avoids exposing the bottom of the flight plate to the wind. For left to right wind, throw a backhand hyzer so that the wind helps to push the disc towards the ground. For right to left wind, throw a forehand hyzer. Even if you do not feel as comfortable with your forehand approaches as your backhands, if the wind says throw a forehand, you should listen. Backhands in a right to left crosswind are a recipe for a disc that gets carried to the left, leaving you with a long, headwind putt.
Always try to leave yourself with a tailwind putt or approach when possible. Even from as close as 10 feet, headwind putts are harder to execute and much more likely to spit out.
Practice on Windy Days
If you want to get better at playing in the wind, go practice in the wind! Many players only face bad conditions when a storm blows in on tournament day. Next time you look out the window and see the trees blowing, grab your stack of putters and go to the practice basket. Next time you think about skipping your casual, post-work round because the weather report says 30+ MPH gusts, view it as an opportunity and head to the course excited for a new challenge.